Saturday, August 12, 2017

Brick and Mortar Books in Redmond, 15 Coolest Bookstores, In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear, The Library of Light and Shadow by MJ Rose and Trailer Park Fae/Roadside Magic by Lilith Saintcrow

It has always been a dream of mine to own a bookstore and tea shop, and I am always happy to hear of people who were able to fulfill their own bookstore dreams, especially when it is in the King County area, where I live and work. 

Redmond's Brick & Mortar Books Owners 'Living Their Dream'

"I think half the people I know have had that dream," Dan Ullom told the
Seattle Times in a profile
of the recently opened Brick & Mortar Books in Redmond, Wash., which he owns with his parents
John Ullom. The question ("Haven't you always dreamed of owning an
independent bookstore?") is a familiar one, as is Ullom's goal to help
Brick & Mortar "become what the best bookstores are: a hub for its

The Ulloms "know that it's no easy trick to sustain a business like
theirs, when they can't offer the discounts available from online
booksellers. Instead, they offer a personal touch," the Times wrote.
"They're listening to what their customers want--Tina noted that they
have greatly expanded their selection of greeting cards, after learning
that no other Redmond Town Center store sells them--and are heartened by
recent reports that show a rise in independent bookstores nationwide.
The anecdotal evidence is encouraging."

"Hundreds of people have walked in the door, saying 'Thank you for being
here,' " Tina Ullom said, adding that her bookselling peers have also
been an inspiration. At a recent Pacific Northwest Booksellers
Association meeting, "everyone said, 'I wake up in the morning and I'm
happy to go to work. I love what I do.' "
"You can feel that good vibe at their store," the Times wrote.

Very interesting list, and I've visited several of these places. Bookstores and libraries are the hub of every community.

'The 15 Coolest Bookstores in America'

"Sometimes the best way to understand a town is to visit its best
bookstores," MSN wrote in showcasing its picks for "the 15 coolest
bookstores in America
Noting that bookshops "are communal places that offer ideas in a
tangible form and a venue for sharing a love of literature," MSN
observed: "They add substance to shopping districts and reflect the
literary passions and history of their communities, making each one
unique and worth exploring even while on a tight vacation schedule."
In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear is her 14th Maisie Dobbs mystery, and one of her most succulent novels to date. This story catches Maisie on the cusp of World War II, in 1939, when the world held it's collective breath. Here's the blurb:
Sunday September 3rd 1939.  At the moment Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcasts to the nation Britain’s declaration of war with Germany, a senior Secret Service agent breaks into Maisie Dobbs' flat to await her return. Dr. Francesca Thomas has an urgent assignment for Maisie: to find the killer of a man who escaped occupied Belgium as a boy, some twenty-three years earlier during the Great War.
In a London shadowed by barrage balloons, bomb shelters and the threat of invasion, within days another former Belgian refugee is found murdered.  And as Maisie delves deeper into the killings of the dispossessed from the “last war," a new kind of refugee — an evacuee from London — appears in Maisie's life. The little girl billeted at Maisie’s home in Kent does not, or cannot, speak, and the authorities do not know who the child belongs to or who might have put her on the “Operation Pied Piper” evacuee train.  They know only that her name is Anna.
As Maisie’s search for the killer escalates, the country braces for what is to come.  Britain is approaching its gravest hour — and Maisie could be nearing a crossroads of her own. Kirkus Reviews: As World War II dawns for Britain, investigator Maisie Dobbs takes on a case involving murdered Belgian refugees with shadowy ties to the Great War. Back in England after her undercover mission in Germany (Journey to Munich, 2016, etc.), Maisie re-establishes herself as private investigator extraordinaire just as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announces that England is once again at war on Sept. 3, 1939. Conflict, of the armed or emotional variety, is nothing new to Maisie: she's been suffering nobly for the entirety of Winspear's series, since the death of her husband and her subsequent miscarriage. So when Dr. Francesca Thomas, a Belgian national who once fought with the resistance group La Dame Blanche and trained Maisie in all things spy, comes inquiring about a new murder investigation, Maisie's interest is piqued. Fellow Belgian Frederick Addens, who came to London as a teenager during WWI and later married an Englishwoman, was shot to death outside his engineering post at St. Pancras station, but Dr. Thomas doesn't buy the cops' explanation that theft motivated the murder. Maisie starts digging, uncovering a trail of mysterious figures with questionable alliances, several of whom don't survive her investigation. Also occupying her time is the plight of 5-year-old Anna, a refugee who's been evacuated to Maisie's family home in Kent but seems to have no family of her own, sending up not only Maisie's detecting red flags, but her long-dormant maternal ones as well. Winspear teeters on the brink of stating the emotionally obvious at times but largely pulls back and weaves a convincing historical drama together with a rocky journey for her heroine.
Interesting as the primary whodunnit was, I found myself more drawn to the mystery of the little girl Anna, who she was and what would happen to her after the mystery was solved. Unfortunately, the author leaves us somewhat up in the air about Anna's fate, as she's residing with Maisie's father and stepmother, and they're hoping to find some family members or someone to adopt her, though that seems impossible during wartime. Also I was not happy about the way Maisie was shamed into detaching from Anna, by being told that Anna could not and should not replace her lost husband and baby. I mean why not? Why would it be such a bad thing for Maisie and her family to take on this wee orphan and raise her with love and care? I honestly think it would be healing for both of them. And why also Maisie is dragged into signing up for the ambulance corps with her snooty wealthy friend Priscilla is beyond me. Priscilla is way too flighty to be much good in a crisis, and with her eldest going off to war, I can only imagine her heartbreak and breakdown when, or if, he comes back broken or not at all. So the ending wasn't really satisfying, but the main part of the book was engrossing, with well written prose and a somewhat odd plot. I'd give it a B+, and recommend it to anyone who has read all the other Maisie mysteries.
The Library of Light and Shadow by MJ Rose is the 3rd book in her "daughters of La Lune" series, and it's so lush and gorgeous that I never wanted it to end. Since there is one more daughter who hasn't had her story told yet, I can only assume that the next book will be the last in the series, though I can always hope that Rose will find another French family to focus her magical gaze upon. Here's the blurb:
In this riveting and richly drawn novel from “one of the master storytellers of historical fiction” (New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams), a talented young artist flees New York for the South of France after one of her scandalous drawings reveals a dark secret—and triggers a terrible tragedy.
In the wake of a dark and brutal World War, the glitz and glamour of 1925 Manhattan shine like a beacon for the high society set, desperate to keep their gaze firmly fixed to the future. But Delphine Duplessi sees more than most. At a time in her career when she could easily be unknown and penniless, like so many of her classmates from L’École des Beaux Arts, in America she has gained notoriety for her stunning “shadow portraits” that frequently expose her subjects’ most scandalous secrets. Most nights Delphine doesn’t mind that her gift has become mere entertainment—a party trick—for the fashionable crowd.
Then, on a snowy night in February, in a penthouse high above Fifth Avenue, Delphine’s mystical talent leads to a tragedy between two brothers. Devastated and disconsolate, Delphine renounces her gift and returns to her old life in the south of France where Picasso, Matisse, and the Fitzgeralds are summering. There, Delphine is thrust into recapturing the past. First by her charismatic twin brother and business manager Sebastian who attempts to cajole her back to work and into co-dependence, then by the world famous opera singer Emma Calvé, who is obsessed with the writings of the fourteenth-century alchemist Nicolas Flamel. And finally by her ex-lover Mathieu, who is determined to lure her back into his arms, unaware of the danger that led Delphine to flee Paris for New York five years before.
Trapped in an ancient chateau where hidden knowledge lurks in the shadows, Delphine questions everything and everyone she loves the most—her art, her magick, her family, and Mathieu—in an effort to accept them as the gifts they are. Only there can she shed her fear of loving and living with her eyes wide open.
I could certainly identify with Delphine in having a brother who used her for his own gain, and who is jealous of her talent, as I had a brother who, though he had far more gifts than I did, was jealous of what I did lay claim to, and therefore had no qualms about trying to destroy me emotionally. I should mention, before I forget, that there are 3 other paranormal/historical romance/adventure books that are linked to this series by MJ Rose, and reading them adds background density to the "Daughters" series. Anyway, I loved the mystery of trying to find the book, and Delphine's ability to draw the deepest secrets while blindfolded, and I loved her interactions with her mother and Mathieu, the love of her life. While we aren't allowed to know if Delphine and Mathieu fall prey to the family curse in the end, we do find out what happened to the book by Nicholas Flamel, and we discover how horrible Sebastian, Delphine's twin, really is, as he tries to kill her after using her for money to pay off gambling debts. I wished he had drowned and died, but Rose allows him to live and manipulate everyone again, so we can only surmise how Delphine will deal with him when she gets back to the chateau. Nevertheless, I found the delicious prose and beautifully complex plot to be riveting, and I couldn't put this book down. A solid A, with a recommendation to anyone who loves paranormal/historical romance with dashes of mystery and adventure in their novels.
Trailer Park Fae and Roadside Magic by Lilith Saintcrow were both books that I read about on a book website dedicated to fantasy and science fiction genres. Because I'd read Saintcrow's Bannon and Clare series, her Jill Kismet series and her Dante Valentine series, I hoped that this would be an equally exciting read, with less bloodshed.  Unfortunately, the bloodshed seems to be inevitable in Saintcrow's work, but these two novels differed from her other works in the nearly Elizabethan prose style that she chose to use to tell her tale. Here's the blurbs:  
New York Times bestselling author Lilith Saintcrow returns to dark fantasy with a new series where the faery world inhabits diners, dive bars and trailer parks.
Jeremiah Gallow is just another construction worker, and that's the way he likes it. He's left his past behind, but some things cannot be erased. Like the tattoos on his arms that transform into a weapon, or that he was once closer to the Queen of Summer than any half-human should be.

Now the half-sidhe all in Summer once feared is dragged back into the world of enchantment, danger, and fickle fae - by a woman who looks uncannily like his dead wife. Her name is Robin, and her secrets are more than enough to get them both killed. A plague has come, the fullborn-fae are dying, and the dark answer to Summer's Court is breaking loose.
Be afraid, for Unwinter is riding...
Roadside Magic:
Robin Ragged has revenge to wreak and redemption to steal. As for Jeremy Gallow, the poison in his wound is slowly killing him, while old friends turn traitor and long-lost enemies return to haunt him.
In the dive bars and trailer parks, the sidhe are hunting. War looms, and on a rooftop in the heart of the city, the most dangerous sidhe of all is given new life. He has only one thought, this new hunter: Where is the Ragged?

While I understand why Saintcrow used Shakespearean prose to tell much of her tale (these are, after all, fae who have graced his plays, including Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, playing the father to the heroine Robin Ragged), I still found it annoying that the formal prose was mixed with the 'vulgar' tongue of English and slang, so that in the dirty streets and the dwarvish underground lairs, it seemed somehow defamed and diluted, which might have been intentional. The plots of both novels are as swift as the lightfeet of the fae who inhabit the pages, and the stories themselves of heartbreak and abuse, love and loss are fascinating stuff. That said, I was surprised at the nearly cartoonish evil of the Queen of Summer (who is basically Queen Mab or Titania, head of the seelie fae) and of Puck, who has been portrayed as mischievous and manipulative, to be sure, but never purely malevolent. Why he would seek to harm his child is never quite clear, and why the men/half fae around her, including Gallow, claim to love her and yet only manage to harm her as they chase her thither and yon also doesn't make sense to me. Still, both books are page turners and deserve an A, as well as a recommendation to all who enjoy 'dark and gritty' fantasy novels with a formal twist and some interesting insights into the world of dwarves, fae and other creatures of the magic realms.

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